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Rene Highway

Reg Hartt 1968






Rene Highway came into my life in the 196s when we both arrived in Toronto.


Rene was a hottie. I was a hottie. We very much enjoyed meeting. We shared the same enthusiasm for the adventure which is life, that enthusiasm that those who work solely for money can never know.

In the mid 1980s Rene called asking if we could meet.

I prayed the God would send a lot of people to my show that night. I knew from the sound of his voice that much drinking was going to be called for.

God delivered.

The restaurant we went to appreciated my generosity. We stayed two hours after they should have said good night.

Rene was having a crisis of faith.

He was going to give up. He was going to go back to where he was born.

I told him, “You are this country’s greatest male dancer. Frankly, you are better than Nureyev, Baryshnikov, all those guys. You can’t go home defeated.”

Though true Rene was not accepting it. He was not believing me because he knew I loved him.

But the Great Spirit had taken care of everything.

Manitou knew what second we should leave.

For as we walked out into the darkness that light shone in all its power.

Two men were walking towards us. One of them shouted, “THERE GOES THIS COUNTRY’S GREATEST MALE DANCER!”

It was Garnet Rogers and the author of FORTUNE AND MEN’S EYES, John Herbert.

Rene stood up straight, proud, renewed.

I have read many Native American works such as BLACK SPEAKS, FOOLS CROW and others. I know their way is true.

We parted that night.

Shortly after Rene said he’d like to live with me.

We lived together for a wonderful period. It was a joy to be in his presence.

There are ways in true faith for making two souls one. We became one. I came to live in him. He came to live in me. He lives in me still. As I write this I feel his presence enveloping me.

One of my favourite moments with him was when he told me of picking berries with some folk. They were being attacked by bugs.

The bugs were not attacking Rene.

They asked, “Why are the bugs not attacking you?”

Rene replied softly as he always did, “Before I began to pick berries I told them I would leave them some.”

Rene and the people from whom he sprung were about respecting the earth.

I am about respecting the earth.

When Rene was preparing to leave this life I visited him in the hospital down the street. I wondered what I could bring him that he would want.

When he was served tea he asked for honey.

There was none.

I went for a walk. I returned with honey.

I was not saddened when Rene’s body left this earth.

The spirit in that body went to join those who had come before him as mine will one day depart.

The spirit that resides in my body said to me softly, “My friend.”

I replied, “My friend.”

Rene spoke to me today which is why I was called to write this.

It was nice to hear his voice.  It has been too long since last I heard it. I had become too distracted by the storm whirling around me. I had given it power when it had none.

Rene came to remind me that there is no storm.

Storms are the whiteman’s invention.

He came to give me strength as I once gave him strength when he reached out to me.

The love we give returns. Give love always.

–Reg Hartt 2019–08–13.

Admit, assume, because, believe, could, doubt, end, expect, faith, forget, forgive, guilt, how, it, mercy, pest, promise, should, sorry, storm, them, us, waste, we, weed-neither these words nor the conceptions for which they stand appear in this book; they are the whiteman’s import to the New World, the newcomer’s contribution to the vocabulary of the man he called Indian. Truly, the parent Indian families possessed neither these terms nor their equivalents.”-Ruth Beebe Hill, HANTA YO.


CANADA – NOVEMBER 27: Worlds collide: Choreographer Rene Highway crosses science-fiction with Indian lore in new dance. (Photo by Patti Gower/Toronto Star via Getty Images)



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